The cleaners of the domestic FlySafair airlines in South Africa were in for a shock when they discovered a fetus had blocked the toilet of a flight that was about to take off from Durban, a city on the country’s eastern coast, on June 21.
Johannesburg-bound flight FA 411 was near-ready for take-off at 6:15 a.m., when cleaning staff found the fetus. This led to immediate offloading and a police probe, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The airline confirmed the incident happened at the King Shaka International Airport, according to local media IOL.
“Upon final preparations of the waste management system for the departure of flight, our technical crew discovered what appeared to be an abandoned foetus,” the airline said in a statement, IOL reported.
TRAVEL UPDATE: FA 411 from Durban to Johannesburg – https://t.co/psFGnv52mf
— FlySafair (@FlySafair) June 21, 2019
Police told IOL that the plane had been parked overnight in Durban after it arrived from Johannesburg, a night before.
“A case of concealment of birth is being investigated by the King Shaka Airport SAPS,” said Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele, according to IOL.
Journeys had to be rescheduled after passengers were asked to disembark.
“We will be doing everything within our power to aid authorities in the necessary investigations and thank our loyal customers for their patience with the resultant delay,” said FlySafair executive Kirby Gordon, according to AFP.
IOL reported that the cleaners had to use suction to remove the blockage and that’s when the fetus came out. It was fully formed, they said.
Earlier in a flight update at 7:55 a.m. on its website, the airline said, “Our teams are working with the relevant parties to initiate a backup plan. At this stage we are evaluating the time required to initiate necessary repairs versus deploying a new aircraft.”
“Customers will be notified of new timings as soon as we receive clarity via SMS. The captain has also addressed customer and our airport teams are on standby.”
Gordon later told News24 that all the passengers have been accommodated on other flights.
Some of the passengers took to social media to report about the flight.
@FlySafair flight Durban to JHB. Flight meant to take off at 6:15 but now delayed because cabin crew found a foetus in the toilet? What!!!!!” wrote Jared Dukkhi on Twitter.
— JaredDukkhi (@JaredDukkhi) June 21, 2019
Another passenger, Mfundisi Calvin Ncube, said on Twitter: “FlySafair flight FA 411 from KSIA – ORT just turned into a crime scene after a fetus was found in the toilet system, now we disembarking.”
FlySafair is known for cheap flights and R5 ticket specials, according to The South African. The publication says local laws stipulate that discarding a fetus without lawful burial is a crime when the fetus has reached 28 weeks’ gestation.
@FlySafair flight FA 411 from KSIA – ORT just turned into a crime scene after a fetus was found in the toilet system, now we disembarking 😢😏
— Mfundisi Calvin Ncube (@MfundisiNcube) June 21, 2019
“Section 113 of the General Law Amendment Act 46 of 1935  criminalizes concealment of birth. It provides that a person commits this offense if he or she disposes of a body of a newly born child without a lawful burial order, and does so with the intention of concealing its birth,” a research paper published in the South African Medical Journal wrote.
Lorraine du Toit-Prinsloo, a co-author of the study, said: “The offense stands regardless of whether the child was born alive or died before, during or after birth. The Act does not define ‘child’. However, S v. Molefe  provides that ‘child’ refers to a fetus that has reached at least 28 weeks’ gestation. One will therefore not commit this crime if one’s conduct involves a fetus of less than 28 weeks’ gestation,” according to The South Afriacan newspaper.
Depending on the age of the fetus, in this case the culprit may not be charged with a crime, the outlet said.